FROM ROSWELL, NEW Mexico to Palomino, Arizona was a nine hour drive. Breaks and food made it eleven. I don’t drive much. Made for a scary day. Pulled up to the new place seven at night and parked the beast out front. Wasn’t about to unload the guts of the rental car at night- all my remaining worldly possessions stuck in there, I didn’t want to drop anything. Was dead on my feet tired when I met my housemate in person for the first time.

I HAD SPOKEN to him over the phone two times before move-in day. Once to confirm the details of the listing and once to let him know when I had a solid date for showing up. Had thought that there’d been a mistake with the price. Five hundred a month for a single story split with one other person. Master bedroom and bathroom. Shared basement. Middle of nowhere aside, it was a real good deal. Almost unbelievably so. He said that it was legit. Swapped a couple emails to get other details smoothed out. House was fully furnished- style wasn’t really my taste, from the website pictures, but it meant I didn’t have to rent a truck instead. Had a Roswell friend help me get my furniture out to a thrift store and packed everything else up tight.

HE, CASSIUS FALWELL, looked just as tired as I felt when he opened up the door to my knocking. Bit of a startled rabbit face, too. He offered to help me unpack, looked relieved when I told him I was leaving that for tomorrow, and let me in. A quick walkthrough: Here’s the shared bathroom. Here’s your room. Here’s the laundry room. Etcetera. A point to the kitchen fridge and a quick mention about how there was some pizza in there if I was hungry. Scampered away after I said thank you and didn’t show back up until the next morning, at the bark of the rental car unlocked, to offer his help again.

I SLEPT OKAY. Cassius didn’t try to kill me with an axe (HAD BEEN EXPECTING IT, JUST A BIT. NOT BECAUSE OF THE WAY HE CARRIED HIMSELF. HE WAS FINE. BECAUSE OF THE TOO GOOD COST OF IT ALL) and I didn’t have any dreams I could remember.

NEITHER OF US were inclined to talk much. He struggled with my book boxes and almost dropped another full of cassette tapes, but he helped. Didn’t mind the music I played. Hovered at the door when I took a moment to crack open the boxes with more delicate things to check on and asked what I was doing with so many different radios and tape players. Told him that I liked having a variety because different ghosts preferred different things.

IT WAS A good first conversation. Cassius balked at the mention of ghosts initially but he let me talk and added his own piece in after a bit. Most people think that dying transforms folk into some great OTHER. A thing to be scared of because you cannot understand it. I don’t understand plenty of living people that I still get along decently with. He liked that idea, I think. So much shit pushed online that you forget all the nurses haunting the hospital halls or whatever are somebody’s daughters. Still, even in death. Things persist. He asked about the radios- some of them were Shack hacks, the others without sweep functions just because I thought they looked neat- and the tape players- some ghosts respond better to the analog physicality of them- and we ended up on better grounds by the end. Turned out he had a great grandpa (THOUGH HE REFERRED TO HIM AS AN ‘ANCESTOR’. CASSIUS SPEAKS LIKE A SICKLY VICTORIAN CHILD AT TIMES) who was into the strange & unexplained. Aliens.

CASSIUS LAUGHED WHEN I told him most alien ‘SIGHTINGS’ were more likely to be misattributed ghost sightings. That sky-lights were disjointed manifestations and creepy trail-cams a result of older ghosts trying their hand with the new of our times. Had told him that I was coming down from Roswell, and he thought it was funny that I ‘DIDN’T LIKE ALIENS’. I don’t dislike them. Just think certain folk are so fixated on the thought of life beyond that they forget about the remnants down here with us still. I’d be a bit pissed if I tried talking to someone, spirit box style, and they thought the ‘INTERFERENCE’ was due to some green thing one thousand miles away. He pulled up an image on his phone and laughed harder when I refused to look at it. Had already seen every combo of red circle red arrow that could be put to screen from digital trawling for my own hunting.

HE TOLD ME later that he writes short horror stories, and that he’d used the same bland ‘VENGEFUL GHOST’ plot so much because it still got reactions that he couldn’t take most of it all seriously. I told him he should write about aliens instead.